Royal Patron: HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh GCVO
Alice Lewthwaite shares a joyful ‘OSCAR’ experience as the sun sets in rural Karnataka.

As we head out from Yadgir in Karnataka, we pass herds of goats, bullocks with horns painted blue pulling carts, decorated tractors taking villagers to a festival and farmers bagging rice in the fields.  We are off to meet the parents of eight girls who have recently been on a trip to Goa with OSCAR to play in a girl’s football tournament

It is my first trip to OSCAR’s projects in Karnataka where we work in 12 rural villages, engaging around 630 children a week. OSCAR has a team of dedicated Young Leaders and coaches from the communities, who run the football sessions and also work within 5 schools delivering the football and life skills programme. We are working to expand this number.  

Arriving in the village we visit the homes of each of the girls who went to Goa.  Most are in school, but the team talk with the parents to hear their views on the trip and to encourage them to keep supporting their girls. Letting daughters travel is a big deal and requires total trust in OSCAR. Parent engagement is vital to enable OSCAR’s work, especially with girls.  Our Young Leaders support the girls and take on the responsibility for negotiating with parents to ensure their participation in football sessions and education. 

We receive a warm welcome from each family, who are mainly from the Lambani community. The women, already beautifully dressed for the Village Festival, rush off to find more ornate items of hand-crafted mirrored finery adorned with cowrie shells and silver coins so they can pose for photos with us.  For some reason the goats also want to join the party! 

Life in the villages in Karnataka is very different to the communities we work with in Mumbai. The children enjoy the space and connection to the natural world. It has different challenges though, cultural, financial and climatic, that mean childhood is not filled with education and leisure time as experienced by English children.  Watching an evening football session with the sun going down over the rice fields, with the cows and goats heading in for the night, the children’s’ laughter and squeals of joy at scoring goals floats through the air, I reflect that this is the priceless thing play can bring, as chores, schoolwork and challenges are forgotten even for the briefest of moments.  I feel very proud of the whole OSCAR team in India who are committed to delivering this joy to over 3000 children a week, every week…

The sun sets over a joyful football practice in rural Karnataka
OSCAR mothers, dressed in traditional costume were delighted to pose for a photo with Shilpi & Alice.
Leave a Reply